Especially against Golden State.
Tony Parker had 20 points and five assists, Danny Green scored 18 points and the short-handed Spurs outlasted the Warriors 99-90 on Saturday night for their 13th straight victory.
"I guess they believe in themselves and in the system, and they just keep working it. Other than that, I don't really know what to tell you," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "They've just got great character. They never give in, and I think they like the challenge when guys are out. They seem to enjoy it.
Tiago Splitter added 17 points and 14 rebounds as the league-leading Spurs (53-16) pulled away with an 11-0 run early in the fourth quarter. San Antonio, riding its longest winning streak in seven years, is two games ahead of Oklahoma City for the top playoff seed in the Western Conference.
The Spurs did it even while resting stars Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. They are 3-0 against Golden State this season, including two wins in Oakland without their regulars, after eliminating the Warriors in the second round of the playoffs last year.
"Everybody stepped up," Parker said. "When somebody's not playing, it's just other guys who will do it. And we trust each other."
Stephen Curry scored 20 points to go with six assists and six rebounds, and Andrew Bogut grabbed 17 boards as the Warriors head into a five-day break on a sour note.
The Warriors (44-27) had won three straight but missed a chance to move up in the playoff chase after Portland lost at Charlotte. Golden State is still in sixth place in the West, 1 1/2 games behind the Trail Blazers and 1 1/2 ahead of Dallas.
San Antonio has won 51 of the past 59 meetings against the Warriors.
"We made some mistakes. It's a disappointing loss. It'll make us better," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "Hopefully we see them down the road again, but there's a reason why they're the best team in basketball."
After wins at the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night and at Sacramento on Friday night, Popovich rested two of his veterans as he so often does throughout the NBA's marathon schedule. Duncan, Ginobili and Parker all sat out San Antonio's 104-102 victory against the Warriors on Dec. 19.
Jackson has been trying to take a similar approach during the season's stretch run, though the wins are not always following. Swingman Andre Iguodala was inactive for the third straight game with tendinitis in his right knee, and backup center Jermaine O'Neal returned after sitting out the previous two games.
Even with all the lineup changes, Jackson saw the matchup against the Spurs as a "benchmark" for where his team stands. He joked before the game that the Spurs are like a bunch of "old dudes" at a recreational center whipping a group of high school All-Americans because of their smarts and savvy.
And that's just what it looked like at the start.
The Spurs opened the game on a 22-7 run and held the lead most of the way. After the Warriors moved within four in the fourth quarter, Green's 3-pointer capped an 11-0 spurt that put San Antonio ahead 87-74.
The Warriors made one last push before the Spurs quickly regrouped. Parker spun for a reverse layup and Green came back with another 3 to stretch San Antonio's lead back to 94-82 with 2:18 left, sending most of the announced sellout crowd of 19,596 headed to the exits.
"I couldn't be more proud of them," Popovich said. "Their effort with three games in four nights, this late in the season, and the back-to-back tonight, to finish off the three in four was real special because everyone came off the bench and they gave the effort they needed to give and I'm just thrilled for them."
The Spurs showed off all their best attributes through the game: smothering defense, precision passing and sharp shooting. The Warriors finally found their touch late in the second quarter, when they scored 10 straight points and sliced San Antonio's lead to 50-47 at the half.
The teams traded scores for most of the third quarter, and the Warriors briefly took a one-point lead. The Spurs put together another surge to go ahead 76-69 entering the fourth quarter, and held on for their longest winning streak since rolling off 13 in a row was from Feb. 13 to March 13, 2007.
"You don't win 50-something odd games at this point and not have a good second unit," said O'Neal, who had nine points and seven rebounds. "They really fly around."
NOTES: Spurs reserve F Matt Bonner also sat out with a strained right calf. ... San Antonio (15-1) and Golden State (13-5) have the most wins in the NBA since the All-Star break. ... The Spurs and Warriors meet for the final time this season April 2 in San Antonio.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP